Sometimes, life is not so bad at all. Writing a blog-item on the balcony of a Paris hotel on a sun-drenched day in spring: doesn’t feel like a prison camp. Especially not with a panoramic view of the Eiffel tower, just a stone’s throw away. Did the Open Group have a metaphorical brainwave when they organised their next Architecture Practitioners conference at exactly this place? One would think so, with hundreds of IT-architects from all over the world discussing the balance between the undeniably ugly appearance of the metal construction and the deep, mathematical drivers that inevitably had to lead to precisely this design.
IT-architects – or ‘Enterprise Architects’, I am not even going to start a discussion here – like to spend time with each other. They can occupy themselves for days with their own methodologies, abstractions and meta models, often refreshingly far removed from daily reality. Introspective and unworldly: delicate qualities that sometimes seem to be firmly-embedded in the genetic material.
Yet, changes are coming.
The profession is becoming more transparent, through the rise of open, globally acknowledged architectural methodologies (particularly TOGAF, The Open Group Architecture Framework) and standards for certification (ITAC, IT Architect Certification). And the biggest growth of the population currently occurs in India. That is a place that only a few years ago was exclusively associated with massive production work, somewhere at the end of the solutions life cycle.
And now there is also a melting together with the world of ERP. In Paris, SAP just announced the SAP Enterprise Architecture Framework: a set of architectural processes, models and reusable components that have been collaboratively developed with Capgemini. The materials must help IT-architects to challenge the growing complexity of package-based, service-oriented solutions. And it is all based on open standards: the framework consists of extensions to TOGAF and all goodies are publicly available to anybody interested.
SAP as a catalyst to open standards; for many it’s not exactly the daily déjà vu experience yet. Already a good reason to follow this announcement with just a bit more interest.
This all makes the metaphor even better. The seemingly unapproachable IT-architect, enjoying a grand view from the very top of the Eiffel Tower, hardly aware of the ordinary activities happening on the streets below. An all the way down, on the quays of the Seine, there are the busy workers of the standard packages. Right next to the fast-flowing river – where ships come and go – they are occupied with their own, incomprehensible business. They won’t typically look up to see what is happening elsewhere.
ERP and IT-architecture: they are destined to get along with each other. Like it or not. From the package perspective, a new, flexible SOA platform emerges that will enable organizations to quickly adapt to changes in the business environment. That clearly has an architectural substance. And from the IT-architecture point of view, there are not many practical situations left in which we don’t encounter package-based solutions. This is why such an unexpected love is blooming between two unlikely partners.
Ah, l’amour. Nothing happens without a reason in Paris.